Starting a baby on solids can be a bittersweet milestone for parents whose newborn baby is progressing to the infant stage. While it may seem like a simple milestone, many options for parents exist when it comes to starting a baby on solids. When to begin? Start with cereal or go directly to food? Jarred foods or homemade foods (viewed by some parents as the most difficult choice to make)? We’ve compiled information to help parents understand their options.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents start feeding solids to babies between the ages of four and six months. Other signs that an infant is ready to begin solids are:
- Holding their Head Up - Can the infant sit in a high chair or other infant seat with good head control without being propped up?
- Eager to Eat - Does the infant watch intently while others are eating? Do they grab for food if within reach?
- Reduction of Tongue Thrust Reflex - Most infants have a reflex to push food out of their mouths, and this begins to diminish around four to five months. When beginning solids, they may need to practice a few times with very thin cereal or thinned out baby food before getting the hang of it. If the thrust reflex is still prominent, try again in a week or so.
As a precaution, please remember to check with a pediatrician before beginning solids of any kind. Always wait 3-4 days between the introductions of new foods to watch for any possible allergic reactions.
Traditionally, doctors have recommended infants begin their solid food journey with single grain cereals such as rice, oatmeal and barely. Infant cereal is mixed with formula or breast milk, and parents can adjust its consistency based on baby’s ability to swallow foods.
Some feel that since infant cereals mixed with formula or breast milk mimic a familiar taste, babies will be more apt to enjoy it (though there’s no medical evidence showing that infant cereals are a necessary step when beginning solid foods). One benefit to store-bought cereals is that they are fortified with iron and other vitamins. At approximately six months of age, infants begin to require more iron in their diet, and feeding them cereal could be one way of supplementing that need. Parents can also choose to make their own infant cereals and supplement with a separate vitamin. Wholesome Baby Food is a good resource to find recipes for single grain cereals.
When parents are ready to start their infants on fruits and vegetables, there are two main options: jarred foods or homemade baby food. Jarred foods offer a convenience for parents who may work full time, have limited time due to having other children or may feel intimidated by the process of making baby food.
Homemade baby foods provide many benefits as well. They cost less to make then jarred foods, have no hidden additives, preservatives, colors, flavors or salt and are surprisingly easy and quick to make. Parents can also control the texture, flavor and variety of foods more easily with homemade foods versus jarred foods.
Making baby food can be as easy as peel and mash. Ripe bananas and avocados are great first foods and parents can easily thin them out with formula or breast milk for new eaters. All other fruits and vegetables can be steamed, baked or cooked on the stovetop.
Parents can puree foods with a hand mixer, mini blender (like the Magic Bullet) or a regular blender. Specialized baby food makers are convenient, but not necessary. Parents can make beginner baby purees and intermediate purees in big batches, frozen into individual servings using ice cube trays and stored optimally for up to three months.
Long Islanders can purchase their fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets and Farm Stands on Long Island. For families who choose to use organic fruits and vegetables, money saving tips and a list of organic farms is a great resource. Long Island farms with family activities are also great for families to visit to have a nice day together while learning about local produce.
By Pamela Boccia